Celebrating 150 years at Te Kūiti Pā

This momentous occasion marked the passing of 150 tumultuous years for Ngāti Maniapoto, including two world wars, two pandemics and economic hardships due to massive land confiscations.


A crowd gathers before Te Kūiti Pā beneath a blue sky.
Te Kuiti Pā courtesy of Dean Whiting.expand/collapse

During a time of significant social and cultural upheaval this whare was built by Ringatū prophet Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tūruki. In 1872, Te Tokanganui-a-Noho wharenui (meeting house) was gifted to Ngāti Maniapoto by Te Kooti in thanks for their support of him and his followers during their time of refuge there.  

A century and a half later in the first week of December, Ngāti Maniapoto gathered at Te Kūiti Pā to honour this whare tipuna (ancestral house) and to celebrate the 150 years it has stood. Around 3,000 attended the event.

Jim Schuster, Pouārahi Traditional Arts at Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, assisted project manager Shannon Manawaiti and the wider team during a major restoration of Te Tokanganui-a-Noho. “It took a while, they’re very old carvings and so the work was completed over a couple of years. It was a big job,” says Jim, who worked with the whānau on and off for a few months. “We took the big carvings down to work on them. The top koruru took a lot of work.”

The house has been moved three times, most recently to make way for railway tracks. Various changes and additions have been made since the original construction. The pou kaiāwhā at the front of the house was carved by Jim’s great grandfather, renown Ngāti Tarāwhai master carver Tene Waitere. Jim says, “Knowing that my koroua has been a part of the building of this whare, you feel at ease and comfortable working in this whare, because he's been here before me. I'm still using some of his chisels that would have been used for the original carvings, and now I'm using them to help in the restoration of the whare again. It’s like his tools have come back to work on the whare.”

Part of the restoration included a repaint of the carvings, but all the old photographs of the whare were black and white, so they were unable to determine what the original colours were and where they were used. Dean Whiting, Kaihautū Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, contributed to the project by analysing the old paint layers on the carvings. The project team then chose to repaint in the original orange, black and white.

The 150th celebrations were followed by another momentous occasion. Te Raniwaitahu, the Maniapoto Deed of Settlement Ceremony, was held the same weekend. Crown representatives including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were in attendance to deliver a formal apology for more than 150 years of broken treaty promises.

Niki Partsch